Whatever Happened to That Web Update?

So if you remember a while back, we had plans to update our main website over at www.capmetro.org. The current page format and structure is a little mature in web-years and we had identified a number of new features (with your help) that would be a lot more useful than what we have now. If you are the type of person to wonder what happened to plans of yore, you may be interested in learning what became of the website update. If you aren’t, then feel free to read someplace else. I promise I won’t be offended.

We started off the project working with a mix of local and national talent. The good news was that we designed a much improved format and a simpler and cleaner look and feel to the site.  Progress was being made on fleshing out the design and implementing an improved content management system that would allow us to better keep the site up to date. The bad news is that the economy went south, revenue dropped and the project suffered the expected fate.

We looked at all of the different ways we could save the project, but the reality is if you don’t put service on the street, then there is no point in having a website. So all of our best justifications were simply not enough. That being said, we didn’t want to throw our hands up and walk away either. What we decided to do (and where we are at now)  is to take the design concepts developed and begin to bring the most important to fruition as we have the time and means to do so.

Honestly, the look, feel, and structure were the biggest and most visible changes, but unfortunately they were the items that would take the most time to develop as well. So we realized that we would not be able to internally change the entire site overnight. Instead we opted to roll out new functionality as quickly as we can develop it (within the current website) and wait for the opportunity to restructure when times are better.

To that end, you will see over the next few months a (hopefully steady) trickle of new features for the riding public. In order to better organize these features, make them easier to find, and assist in using them, we will be introducing a new section entitled Cap Metro Labs (with all due homage to Google). This section of the website will list new features and functionality that will enhance our current website. Not everything in this section will survive public review, but if even a few of them mature to be useful parts of the public transit experience, then the Labs will have served their purpose. So please watch the main page for this new section and let us know what you like and what you don’t.

P.S. It is worth mentioning that the experiences of the City of Austin and their web site redesign have not gone unnoticed from within our humble walls. The idea of crowd-sourcing the construction of a tax payer funded website is quite intriguing. One fraught with challenges, but most revolutionary ideas are. So it is with great interest that we watch to see how this series of events unfolds. As for our strategy at crowd-sourcing, one of the things you will see immediately in the new labs section is an area where we take our (really your) data and make it as easily available as possible. The intent being to see what people want to do with the data and see how it can be opened up and made more freely available. So as we roll out our Automatic Vehicle Location solution on our fleet and as we develop other types of information sources, we will publish them in the labs section and see what great ideas are waiting to spring forth.

2 thoughts on “Whatever Happened to That Web Update?

  1. Jim Stewart

    Mr. Talbott, in March you wrote about AVL and estimating arrival times… is Capital Metro releasing this information to developers?

  2. Mr. Stewart:

    We have all but finished the deployment of the AVL system to our Paratransit fleet and have in fact began studying the options for this real time data stream. At this point, given the personal and privacy issues around Paratransit we have not opted to release this stream of data (the bad news). That being said, if the public (or developers) were interested in building on this data stream, we are open to exploring how we could share that and keep our rider’s information private. But my assumption was that most people are interested in the Fixed Route fleet’s data stream…

    To that point, we are now marching forward with the AVL project on the rest of the fleet(the good news). We are hoping to start seeing some live data coming back in the spring of next year (based on when we think we can get the equipment on the buses). Additionally we are keen to find a way to share the live data stream with developers such that they can use it and it doesn’t cripple our systems. Given the lack of standards in this arena there may be some starts and stops in the deployment, but we are committed to making it work.

    In anticipation of having some really good data to share soon we have been working on a new developer’s page (with a permanent address on our website). Hopefully we will have that in place in the next week or so which will give a place of interest to all parties that would like to build around our data sets.

    Please keep an eye out and let me know how you think we can improve our offering.

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